PUTRAJAYA, Jan 14 (Bernama) -- The Peaceful Assembly Act 2011 was enacted to assure an individual's freedom to assemble peacefully, as part of the rights enshrined in Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail said today.
Abdul Gani said this broad assurance was nevertheless circumscribed by certain restrictions and conditions which are considered necessary and expedient in the interest of the security and public order of the country and its citizens.
"This includes the right to organise and participate in assemblies peaceably and without arms" he said in his speech at the opening of the 2012 Legal Year, here.
The Peaceful Assembly Act which replaces Section 27 of the Police Act 1967, provoked a fiery debate in Parliament and elsewhere, with relevant stakeholders consultations carried out at the initiative and discretion of the proponent ministries or agencies, he said.
He asserted that it was neither the role nor function of the Attorney General's Chambers to lead or carry out such consultations.
"Nevertheless, in the case of this very important public interest legislation, my Chambers ensured that the necessary consultations were held with all the relevant stakeholders, including the Malaysian Bar Council. All proposals were put to the government and the government made the relevant policy decisions where these were warranted," he said.
Abdul Gani explained that in the course of drafting any piece of legislation, there were many potential parties' interests and those interests shaped legislative aims and guided policy choices.
However, these interests should not intervene in the process and render uncertainties in the scope and application of the proposed legislation, he said.
"At a certain point, an executive decision based on the best knowledge of available facts at the relevant time needs to be made," he said.
Abdul Gani said in order for drafting instructions to be issued and carried out satisfactorily, decisions had to be made and consultations could not be carried out endlessly in an attempt to satisfy all interested parties.
He said the bottom line was that there can never be a "perfect" piece of legislation, but there can only ever be a hope for the "right" legislation, to meet exigencies of the times and that is why the Peaceful Assembly Act was enacted, to assure an individual's freedom to assemble peacefully.
Commenting on the Act, Abdul Gani said the Ministry of Home Affairs will prescribe the designated places where peaceful assemblies can be held without need for advance notice or any other approvals.
Only if such assemblies are proposed at a non-designated place will the notification requirement under the Act apply, he added.
Abdul Gani said the participants of the assembly, whether at designated or approved non-designated places are prohibited from behaving offensively or abusively towards any person, causing damage to property, doing any act or making any statement which had a tendency to promote feelings of ill-will.
"They must also adhere to orders given by the police or organisers to ensure the orderly conduct of the assembly. If the orders of the police are not complied with, the police may issue an order to disperse the assembly," he said.
Abdul Gani added that it could not be over emphasised that the prohibitions, restrictions and conditions contained in the new Act, had been included as necessary precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of participants of the assembly as well as the public and community at large alike.
He also said in the best interest of children, the Act prohibits children under the age of 15 years from participating in or from being brought to an assembly.